Did you know that even though the E-rate program makes $2.25 billion available annually to libraries and schools for telecommunications service, Internet access and related costs, libraries have traditionally made up less than 5% of the program? The reasons for this are many, including the impact of CIPA legislation and the complexity of the application process.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OITP has begun an effort to increase library participation in the federal E-rate program. Our first activity in this project was a training session for state library E-rate coordinators that took place November 7-9 in Herndon, VA. Representatives from 44 states and the District of Columbia attended the training, which was led by EdTech Strategies president Linda Schatz.
State library E-rate coordinators play an important role in the E-rate program. They provide training, help applicants make their way through the program, and advocate for E-rate at the state and local level. We at OITP have long felt that these people need recognition for their role and a way to come together around the program to share ideas and best practices.
Nearly half of the attendees are new to the E-rate program, so the first day of training was program basics. In the second and third day, the attendees tackled some of the thornier issues they deal with every day.
Response to the training has been very positive — in fact, there was a suggestion from an attendee to pen a library E-rate fight song. We look forward to working with this great group of people as we continue toward the mutual goal of helping more libraries benefit from the E-rate program.